Saturday, September 12, 2015

Yet Another Sunshine Violation -- "Team Building Meeting" Not Announced on Commission Meeting Website (IN HAEC VERBA -- My September 12, 2015 letter to Mayor, Commissioners, et al.)

Dear Mayor Shaver, Vice Mayor Horvath, Commissioners Sikes-Kline, Freeman and Neville, Mr. Regan, Ms. May, Ms. Lopez and Ms. Ratkovic, et al.:
1. Please cancel the Thursday, September 17, 2015 "Team  Building" training meeting for our City Commissioners and Mayor, for which no notice was ever given on the City Commission meetings webpage.
2.  Floridians adopted Sunshine and Open Records laws as Article I, Section 24 of our State Constitution by vote of 3.8 million voters in 1992 (some 83% of those voting): the provision was drafted by Professor Joseph Little of the University of Florida.  Ever since, the City of St. Augustine has been violating Sunshine and Open Records laws, including a planned group "business trip" to Spain in 2010 and the illegal delegation of the City's 450th to a newly-created "First America Foundation," created with $275,000 in City seed money at the behest of then-Mayor JOSEPH BOLES and Commissioners LEANNA FREEMAN, NANCY SIKES-KLINE, ERROL JONES and DONALD CRICHLOW for the express purpose of violating Sunshine and Open Records laws.  Eighteen of us hired the law firm of Holland & Knight, which worked pro bono; the group Spanish "business trip" was cancelled and the First America Foundation was ended, with refund of some $200,000 of $300,000 given the organization by then-Commissioners).  The cancelled illegal group Spanish "business trip" and abolished illegal First America Foundation sometimes elicit laughter in CLE and law classes on Sunshine and Open Records laws.  Please do not embarrass us again, Commissioners.
3. Setting a secretive "training" meeting on "team building" (whatever that is) is a waste of government funds and a violation of F.S. 286. 011, because no "reasonable notice" has been give  to the public.
4. Thus, I respectfully request that you kindly cancel the illegal, secret meeting and discuss this deviation from the standard of care required by Florida law as an additional agenda item (with public comment) at our Monday, September 14, 2015 meeting.  I further request that you kindly cease and desist from all further violations of our Florida Sunshine Law,  F.S. 286.011 and Article I, Sec. 24, Florida Constitution.   Please preserve all paper and electronic evidence concerning this "Team Building" training, no matter where it might be located, and provide it as soon as possible, including Purchase Orders, RFPs, RFQs, promotional literature, memos, e-mails or other records (Request No. 2015-335).
5. "Team player" is not a bona fide occupational qualification for elected officials.  The term "team player" is deeply offensive and wholly inappropriate, implying as it does keeping secrets.  When President RICHARD MILHOUS NIXON ordered the firing of Pentagon cost analyst A. Ernest Fitzgerald in retaliation for his truthful Congressional testimony and candid answers about C-5A cargo aircraft cost overruns, President NIXON gave tape-recorded orders to fire Mr. Fitzgerald because he was not a "team player."  Case law is replete with examples of "team players" participating in and covering up crimes.  We don't want any of our elected officials to be "team players."  We want honest representation, not an oath of omertà.
6. Corrupt officials have often stigmatized people disclosing wrongdoing as "not team players," or worse. 
7. On March 13, 2006, after I reported to EPA and DEP our City government for dumping a landfill in a lake, Vice Mayor SUSAN BURK, Commissioners DONALD CRICHLOW, JOSEPH BOLES and ERROL JONES publicly proclaimed their undying admiration of  HARRISS, with the four defending him against what they claimed were my unwarranted criticisms. (Our City eventually paid a fine of more than $31,000 for the illegal dumping of 40,000 cubic yards of contaminated solid waste in our Old City Reservoir, a coquina pit  lake that former EPA Region 4 Regional Administrator John Henry Hankinson told me was "an open sore going straight down to our aquifer and groundwater"). Then and there, on March 13, 2006, Commissioner BOLES (later that year elected to the first of four terms as our Mayor) said regarding my illegal dumping questions, without irony, that he was "tired" of me "trashing" City Manager WILLIAM BARRY HARRISS.  I was lambasted by BURK as a "disgruntled citizen," (e.g. for asking questions about pollution of the Old City Reservoir).  I wear their scorn as a badge of honor: the consent decree speaks for itself -- the City was wrong and never apologized for its chilling our free speech rights and winking at criminal wrongdoing.  (Does being the City of St. Augustine mean "never having to say you're sorry?"
8. History repeats itself, as Commissioners LEANNA FREEMAN (ex-partner of BURK's in a law firm that was known as "FREEMAN & BURK") and Commissioners NANCY SIKES-KLINE and TODD NEVILLE have recently raised false trite tropes about "civility," including possibly making anonymous postings on the St. Augustine Record's website.
9. Of course, this country was founded by "disgruntled citizens."  Few of us are "full gruntled," in the words of the late Andy Rooney. BURK's abusive use of the adjective "disgruntled" is a common semantic tactic of people retaliating against protected activity.  
10. St. Augustine City Commissioners have in the past publicly used words like "team player" as a complement, while insisting that their City Managers are doing a perfect job. In Abrams v. Baylor College of Medicine, 581 F.Supp. 1570, 1574 (S.D. Texas 1984), affirmed in relevant part, 805 F.2d 528 (5th Cir. 1986), the Court rejected pretexts for discrimination in refusing to send Jewish physicians to a program in Saudi Arabia, including a "team player" requirement. A "team player" does not blow the whistle or criticize management. "Team player" is freighted with the speech-chilling implication that one is willing to "go along to get along," say what management wants to hear, and do what one is told by managers, no matter what the ethics or legality of the situation. In the political corruption case of United States v. Salvatti, 451 F.Supp. 195, 197-98 (E.D. Pa. 1978), one witness testified that "when she complained to the Mayor about Mr. Carroll's pressure, and advised him that the proposed payment to the Sylks would be totally improper and probably illegal, the Mayor chided her for not being a team player." See also Fitzgerald v. Seamans, 384 F.Supp. 688,697n7 (D.D.C. 1974), affirmed, 553 F.2d 220, 224 (D.C. Cir. 1977), reversedHarlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982); Nixon v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 731 (1982) (remarks of President Nixon et al. on need to fire Department of Defense whistleblower A. Ernest Fitzgerald after he testified before Congress on C-5A transport cost overruns); Broderick v. Ruder, 685 F.Supp. 1269 (D.D.C. 1988)(sexual harassment at Securities and Exchange Commission); Tomsic v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co, 85 F.3d 1472, 1474 (10th Cir. 1996); Geddes v. Benefits Review Board, 735 F.2d 1412, 1416, 1420 (D.C. Cir. 1984) (Washington Metropolitan Transportation Authority considered workers' compensation claimant not a "team player"); Davis v. California, 1996 WL 271001 (E.D.Cal.1996); Schloesser v. Kansas Dept. of Health & Environment, 766 F.Supp. 984 (D. Kansas 1991); Stradford v. Rockwell International, 48 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas. (BNA) 697, 49 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 38,828,1988 WL 159939 (S.D.Ohio); Seymour M. Hersh, "Annals of National Security: The Intelligence Gap -- How the digital age left our spies out in the cold," The New Yorker, December 6, 1999 at 58, 62.
11.  Thus, I consider any "training" of Commissioners in how to be "team players" to be insulting, unnecessary, contrary to the genius of a free people and yet another example of waste, fraud and abuse in City Hall.  
12.  I object to the training and the attempt to hornswoggle citizens out of our money to inculcate anti-democratic values in our elected Commissioners and Mayor. Why did Commissioner TODD NEVILLE suggest this "team building" training?  Did Commission vote on it  Is this another no-bid contract?
13.  Please cancel the September 17, 2015 illegal "training" meeting for lack of "reasonable notice."  F.S. 286. 011.
14.  Please reject the notion of "team building" training as waste of government funds.
15.   Please do not embarrass us again.
Please govern yourselves accordingly.  
Herein faileith not.
Thank you.
With kindest regards, I am,
Sincerely yours, 
Ed Slavin

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